Son of Death

The Son of Death (Tuonen poika) weaves an iron net and sets it across the River of Tuonela to prevent the living from escaping the land of the dead.

Mana’s son with crooked fingers,
Iron-pointed, copper fingers,
Pulls of nets, at least a thousand,
Through the river of Tuoni,
Sets them lengthwise,
sets them crosswise,
In the fatal, darksome river,
That the sleeping Wainamomen,
Friend and brother of the waters,
May not leave the isle of Mana.

In the Finnish national epic Kalevala, the Son of Tuoni kills a shaman warrior Lemminkäinen with his sword and leaves his body pieces floating in the river of the dead.

There the blood-stained son of death-land,
There Tuoni’s son and hero,
Cuts in pieces Lemminkainen,
Chops him with his mighty hatchet,
Till the sharpened axe strikes flint-sparks
From the rocks within his chamber,
Chops the hero into fragments,
Into five unequal portions,
Throws each portion to Tuoni,
In Manala’s lowest kingdom.


Images by Tero Porthan, text by Tiina Porthan